Our second event was held at The Judd School in Tonbridge on 29th November. Having started with a full range of hot drinks and pastries we were suitably refreshed ready to tackle some serious RE issues.
The first session of the morning was organised into a series of 3 discussion areas:
– The RE Consult – the proposed changes to the GCSE and A-Level specifications
– SMSC – the new Ofsted focus
– Assessment – how are we assessing in RE now?
Everybody was invited to select 2 discussions to attend and just as before, we had way more to discuss than time to do so! It’s fascinating getting a group of teachers from different schools, in different areas with different experiences to chat about the common issues that face us as RE teachers.
After a quick break (and more pastries!) our second session was a ‘TeachMeet’ in which everyone had been invited to bring along and share an idea for something that they have found to work well in their schools. This provided some really useful ideas including:
1. DIRT assessment
DIRT stands for:
The idea of this strategy for assessment is to devote longer to feedback and assessment. Setting directed targets, asking students to reflect on the improvements suggested and allowing time for this to happen is the basis of it. You can read more in lots of blogs online including this one: http://www.huntingenglish.com/2013/10/12/dirty-work/
2. Thunks ‘Can you have an unjust peace?’
Many of us already use thunks, (if you don’t just try googling them and see more examples) but this really challenging example was offered as a clever way to get students thinking deeply about the concept of a Just War which can be a difficult topic to tackle.
3. SORT IT
We all got involved in this activity in which we were provided with a set of words and a set of sentences and simply told to ‘sort it’! This went beyond the usual sorting task as students are not given any instructions about HOW to sort it; this means they have to really think about it and there can be many possible solutions. How clever! This activity also lent itself to differentiation – both in terms of strategies displayed by the students as well as the option to increase or decrease the number of cards given to groups. An extension suggestion was to go further with it by asking students to compose a piece of writing around the words.
4. The 7 Sacraments – using images to get them thinking!
The idea of this was to present the students with an image, in this case the 7 sacraments. Initially they might be asked to find the 7. This could be at the start of a series of lessons on what sacraments are. The image would then be used throughout the topic asking the students to go back and interpret what they can see in the image in the light of their learning. At the end of the topic they are asked to prepare a ‘tour’ of the painting to educate others about it’s significance.
5. Socratic Debating
This is a method for running large discussions in class. The idea is to initially organise the class into 2 groups – the debaters and the listeners. The debaters sit in an ‘inner’ circle and the ‘listeners’ sit in a larger circle around them. The listeners can be given specific things to listen out for e.g. looking for examples of backing up the point, building on a point, challenging a point etc. This makes them active and ensures participation in this group whilst the ‘debaters’ debate. The positions are then swapped for the second half of the debate so that they get their turn. In doing this you can also really develop discussion skills alongside getting everyone involved in discussion.
6. Nick Vujicic
A number of us will be familiar with the ‘man with no arms and no legs’ having seen his videos on YouTube. The teaching idea suggested was to introduce the idea of having no arms and no legs without starting with the video – get the students thinking what such a life would be like? The discussion could then lead into showing a video or looking at Nick’s own website http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/about-nick/bio/ This was suggested as a great way to get students thinking about the real challenges but also real inspiration that can come from disability. Another option would be to explore Nick’s faith.
7. Christian Aid website
Never underestimate the resources available on charitable websites that are well produced and often have lesson ideas attached. These can be much more useful than trawling more general teaching websites for ideas!
8. Thinking Hats
A few of us had used these before but it was good to hear that they can be developed into really successful teaching tools – the key seems to be to introduce them slowly and to keep using them. The advantage of using them appears to be that they not only ask students to think but to think in a certain way about a topic. This gives direction and also takes the pressure off it being their own thoughts on the issue. For example asking students to ‘put on the green hat’ means that you are asking for a provocative statement about the topic.
We closed the event by advertising our Facebook group (now very much up and running) and discussing the date and venue for the next event. Stand by for updates on our Spring event!
Thanks to all those who came and most especially to Hannah at The Judd School for being such an amenable host!